Monday, June 15, 2009

Review of meeting about Genesis 1, part 1 of 4

Hi folks!
Yesterday, we had another "Two Books" discussion meeting at my place. My original intention was to discuss Genesis 1 and 2, as these chapters seem to contain a high concentration of stumbling blocks that skeptics have regarding Christianity. Indeed, one of my stated goals for this discussion group and this blog is to talk about thoughtful responses to common objections that skeptics raise. We had a good time discussing Genesis 1, but did not have enough time to get to Genesis 2. Next time!

We read Genesis 1:1-2:4. (Note that many Bibles place verse 2:4 with the chapter 2 creation narrative, while some place it with the chapter 1 narrative. Some, such as the NIV, even divide the verse into two parts.) In particular, we focused on three points.

First, many skeptics object to the Genesis 1 creation account because of the common view that it teaches that the earth and the universe are less than 10,000 years old. This comes from the divine work-week structure of the creation narrative. However, the Hebrew word translated as "day" (yom) can be interpreted in several different ways. Indeed, there are at least two uses of the word "yom" in the very same text that unequivocally mean something other than a 24-hour period. The first is in vv 1:5, 16, and 18 (here "day" means the roughly 12-hour period of daylight). The second is in verse 2:4. In fact, this appearance of the word "yom" is not even translated as "day" very often (the NIV does not even have a clear translation of this word), but this verse is referring to an ambiguously long period of time, greater than 24 hours.

The punchline is that "yom" can possibly refer to an unspecified, long (but finite) period of time, and if that's true, why would we be compelled to accept the days of the creation week as 24 hours? (And by the way, there are many scriptural reasons for regarding these "days" as long, unspecified periods of time, which are far beyond the scope of this particular post.)

So that's major roadblock #1. The other two will be to come in the next few days. As usual:

Comments are welcome!